Sayulita is For Everyone: Interview with Kimberley Flor Keehn

Photos by Georgia Glennon
Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Flor

I have met many different and interesting people over the past months as I wrote this column, but I don't think I have ever met someone who had Indonesia and Sweden stamped on their passport. Kimberley Flor Keehn is that person. And, she is an East-coast norte americano like myself; which makes her that much more interesting.

Born and "almost-raised" in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a large city in the northeast portion of the United States, Flor began her life in "The City of Brotherly Love". I mention that because Philly (as we call it) is anything but a gentle city where everyone goes around hugging one another. In fact, it is a city with all of the violence and poverty problems of any other major city in the United States. But Philly was just a starting point for this woman.

In her senior year of High School, Flor was fortunate enough to be enrolled in an exchange program which allowed her to live and study in Sweden. That year abroad was to forever change her perspective on the world and life in general. Flor had caught the "wanderlust" bug. And, while attending the Evergreen College in the state of Washington, in the U.S., she was studying Mayan Sociology, and travelled to Chiapas and Michoacan in Mexico to do field studies; where she studied and made and sold some of her jewelry. She fell in love with Mexico, its culture, and its appreciation for art, and pretty well knew that this was where she wanted to live. But, before settling down, Flor wanted to travel a little more; just to be sure that Mexico was the "right" spot for her.

Flor

And, where does someone whose heart is in Mexico travel to, you ask? Why, Indonesia, of course. It was there that Flor met her husband, and had her son, Obsidian. Obsidian is a black volcanic rock that is indigenous to Mexico. Yes, that's correct. Flor's son, conceived and born in Indonesia, was named for a stone indigenous to Mexico. Guess there was no way she wasn't destined to return to Mexico. Three years later, in 2003, Flor and her son moved to Sayulita.

But life in Sayulita wasn't always the large joyeria on the calle with the fancy displays and turista customers. No, in fact, one of Flor's very first jobs in Sayulita was selling mango muffins on the beach. Soon thereafter, she began to make and sell her signature jewelry in the Plaza, along with the other artisans. As you may or may not know, the artisans were, and continue to be, moved around to different parts of the pueblo depending on the preferences of the governing persona at the time. It was, however, during one of those movements, that Flor found her current location, and began to think about a shop of her own. When the then "Judge" of the town told her she would need to get a location if she wanted to continue to sell her jewelry, the die was cast. Through hard work and with some luck, Flor's business was a success. After one year, she had made and saved enough money to rent the other part of what is now her jewelry shop, Joyeria Sol, and the rest is history; as they say.

Through it all, through the lean times, the many moves, and the fearfull moments when she wasn't sure it would all work out, it was Obsidian who gave Flor the strength to continue. A character in his own right, Obsidian has been the "first student" at three schools in the area: Costa Verde, Escuela del Mundo, and the Discovery School. Whoever takes over this column when I have moved on will need to make a note to get his story.

Fluent in Spanish now, Flor was asked to leave the Philadelphia school system's language arts program because she was not displaying "any aptitude" for foreign language studies. Take that Philadelphia!

Flor

When Flor first moved to Sayulita in 2003, this "quaint fishing village" was dirt roads and transportation was on horseback. As we know, a lot has changed in the past ten or so years. Sayulita is now poised to become one of the top tourist locations in all of Mexico. And, while that development has been great for business, Flor admits to missing the old days when things were quieter and simpler. Her concern for the pueblo magico is in the "polarization" which such rapid prosperity seems to have fostered. And her hope is that the three different factions that seem to dominate our pueblo will find ways to unite for the common good of all of Sayulita's citizens.

This is a perfect lead-in to a discussion of Grupo Pro Sayulita and it's re-direction this year, but that is fodder for someone else to write about in another column.

Than you, Flor. It was a pleasure getting to know you.

Sayulita Es Para Todos: Entrevista Con Kimberley Flor Keehn

He conocido a mucha gente interesante en los últimos meses mientras escribo esta columna, pero no creo que he conocido a alguien con las estampas de Indonesia y Sweden en su pasaporte. Kimberley Flor Keehn es esa persona. Y, es norte-americana de la costa este como yo; eso le hace mas interesante.

Nacida y casi criada en Filadelfia, Pensilvania, una ciudad grande en el noreste de estados unidos, Flor empezó su vida en la ciudad de "Amor de Hermanos". Filadelfia es una ciudad llena de violencia y crimen igual que cualquier otra cuidad pero Philladelphia solo fue el comienzo para esta mujer.

En su ultimo ano de la preparatoria, Flor tuvo la oportunidad de participar en un programa de intercambio y eso le permitió vivir y estudiar en Sweden. Ese año le cambiaria a Flor para siempre y su perspectivo del mundo y la vida en general. Flor quería viajar. Mientras estudiaba en Evergreen College en el estado de Washington y estudiaba sociología maya, viajo a Chiapas y Michoacán en México. Estudiaba y vendía su joyería. Se enamoro de México, su cultura, aprecio por el arte y sabia que estaba donde quería vivir. Pero antes de decidir, queria viajar un poco mas; solo para estar segura que México era el lugar indicado para ella.

Adonde viaja alguien quien tiene su corazón en México? A Indonesia. Allá Flor conoció a su esposo y tuvo su hijo, Obsidian. Obsidian es una piedra volcánica de México. El hijo de Flor tiene su nombre de una piedra que proviene de México. Su destino, supongo que era regresar a México. Tres anos después, se mudo a Sayulita con su hijo.

Pero la vida en Sayulita no siempre fue como la joyería grande en la esquina y todas las turistas que hay ahora. No, de hecho, el primer trabajo de Flor era vender panes de mango en la playa. Pronto después, empezó a hacer y vender su joyería en la plaza con otros artesanos. Los artesanos se movían y continúan moviéndose para vender sus artesanías dependiendo donde el juez prefiere que se pongan a vender. Durante un movimiento Flor encontró su local actual y empezó a abrir su propia tienda. Con trabajo duro y un poco de suerte, Flor abrió su tienda, Joyería Sol y el resto es historia.

A través de todo, los subibajas y momentos de miedo cuando no estaba segura que todo iba a salir bien, era Obsidian que le dio la fuerza para continuar. Obsidian ha sido el primer alumno en tres escuelas en el área: Costa Verde, Escuela del Mundo y Discovery School.

Ahora fluida en español, Flor tenía que salir del programa de lenguaje en el sistema escolar de Filadelfia porque no demostraba aptitud para aprender otro idioma.

Cuando Flor se mudo a este pequeño pueblo pesquero en 2003, había solo calles de tierra y la transportación era montar caballos. Como ya lo sabemos, mucho ha cambiado en los últimos 10 anos. Sayulita ahora es uno de los destinos turísticos mas conocidos. Y, aunque eso es fantástico para el negocio, Flor admita que extraña el pasado cuando todo era más simple y mas tranquilo. Su preocupación es la polarización de este pueblo mágico. Su esperanza es que hay un bien común para todos los ciudadanos de Sayulita.

Gracias Flor, fue un placer conocerla.